Saturday, July 12, 2014

It Did Not, However, Contain a Live Bobcat

I'm picking an airplane up from a routine maintenance inspection and service. It's early in the morning, before anyone from the maintenance unit is in. This is not unusual. It's a little unusual for us to have scheduled maintenance performed away from home base, but sometimes the person responsible for maintenance makes arrangements with other companies.

I pick up the journey log. If that paperwork is not done, the maintenance is considered incomplete, so I always check it first. The signed maintenance release shows the work that has been performed on the airplane, so I know what to pay particular attention to on my inspection. The entry matches the purchase order, and is unremarkable.

I start the walkaround. Numerous cowling screws are loose. These are things that work themselves loose over time. I find loose ones in the field and just snug them up.  If a particular one is consistently loose, I report it and maintenance repairs the anchor. There's probably a reading of the regulations that requires me to leave my Swiss army knife in my pocket and call a licensed AME to tighten my cowling screws, but who would do that? It's permissible for a few to be missing, but I'd rather they stay in. While I'm not impressed that these folks didn't check that all the screws were tight after replacing the cowling, I'm more concerned about what they didn't tighten that I can't check. I verify through the front opening in the cowlings that the front few spark plugs are tight.  I had a coworker once (different job, different maintenance unit) who came back from a flight reporting a rough running engine.  While waiting with him for the AME to arrive, I poked about in the cowling, not expecting to find anything, just the equivalent of opening the hood and staring at a non-functioning car engine. But in this case my hand came back with a spark plug that had only been finger tight. Someone was distracted between setting it in place and putting a wrench on it. It turned out that day that all the bottom spark plugs were loose.

The spark plugs I can reach are tight here,but the little door in the cowling that can be opened to access the oil quick drain is still open. The oil quick drain itself is closed and there is oil in the engines.  A quart difference between the levels in the two crankcases, but they're both in the acceptable range.

There's a tire gauge in the baggage compartment, a screwdriver in the cabin, and the piece de resistance: there's an electronic multi-tester inside one of the engine cowlings, barely visible through the little door through which I access the oil dipstick.

We do not depart until I have spoken with the PRM and a maintenance supervisor here, and we find ourselves a new maintenance unit in this area. I did return the tools, even though I always figure that anything left in my airplane after maintenance should be mine to keep.

Oh, and if you're confused about the bobcat reference .


Aluwings said...

It's always a great idea to check extra carefully any airplane that is fresh out of the shop! I've encountered cockpit plastic storage panels that were completely missing... Aircraft registration numbers that had been painted over and were now "missing," ... and even cylinder head bolts that weren't properly torqued (long story).

Good work on your part to find all this.

D.B. said...

Good job - the most likely time to have a mechanical problem is right after maintenance.

My Bonanza will be coming out of annual tomorrow, and will get an extra attentive and thorough pre-flight, as you did.

Majroj said...

Not just aircraft. Mechs replaced sheared hub nuts on my rescue truck, signed it off, then decided to "ops check " it (i.e., use the red beacon to get clearance to drive across the main runway to go get lunch).

They pulled out, braked, and the right front wheel rolled past them and almost reached the main runway's main intersection.

HUBNUTS: check. LUGNUTS: well, uh...